Maldonado crashed out of the race in Brazil last season but believes Saturday can yield a good result.
"The car felt good today; we were alternating the strategy between the two sessions, as we were trying different things, which meant we lost a bit of performance against this morning", he said.
"However, I think we’ll be competitive in qualifying tomorrow. We just need to work through the data to get the set-up right, but I feel confident heading into tomorrow".
Home driver Bruno Senna lamented a difficult day.
"It was quite a tough session today as we didn’t get as much information as we would have liked for tomorrow. We’ve got some work to do to understand how we can do things better to make sure we’re competitive for tomorrow, as the grid is very close here. It’s very hot today but it was great to see all my home fans out there, even with sweat in my eyes!"